Phil Hughes has been pathetically bad so far this season and with Andy Pettitte looming down in the minor leagues about ready to return, he was dangerously close to losing his rotation spot. However, his start on Sunday was just what he needed to secure his spot for at least a little bit longer and perhaps get himself back on the right track.
One start clearly doesn’t mean much, but it was encouraging to see him attacking the strike zone, staying ahead of hitters, and being able to finish them off. That kept his pitch count down, he never threw more than 21 pitches in an inning.
It also got him into the 7th inning for the first time this season, something he has done just five times since July of 2010. Not only was he able to pitch into the 7th, he threw 115 pitches and didn’t lose velocity as the game went on. Instead, he sat in the 93-95 mph range throughout the entire game including his last pitch at 95.
His location was also solid too. Yes, he did miss once to Humberto Quintero, who homered to knock him out of the game in the 7th, but he also struck out seven batters and walked just one. His 12 swinging strikes went a long way toward the impressive strikeout line.
This doesn’t mean that Hughes is back to his 2010 form, but it does show what he’s capable of. The fact that 72 percent of his pitches were four seam fastballs shows that he doesn’t fully trust his secondary stuff yet, but everything else was on track. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.